Monday, March 09, 2009


What: LAy of the LAnd: Writing Los Angeles
When: March 25, 2009 1:30-8:00 PM
Where: Loyola Marymount University

How do contemporary L.A. writers render the city they call home? What new directions are there in L.A. writing—is there a “school” of L.A. writing? What role should L.A. writers play during these crisis times in our city and country? Can L.A. authors give the city back the sense of history and identity that “development” so often erases?

Two of Loyola Marymount University’s own writer-professors, Gail Wronsky (director, Creative Writing) and Rubén Martínez (Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature & Writing) have curated a day-long conference dedicated specifically to writers in Los Angeles and writing on Los Angeles—not as a one-off occasion, but as an annual celebration of the literary arts in the City of Angels.

The conference will gather about a dozen writers, both established and upcoming who both live here and represent the city in their work. The presenters will range across the genres—poetry, fiction, non-fiction and criticism. There will be panels, readings and opportunities to break bread, time for the LMU community to rub elbows with the best of the city’s literary talent.

Among the distinguished company will be one the grande dame of L.A. lit, Carolyn See (There Will Never Be Another You), poet and 2008 Whiting Award recipient Douglas Kearney, Los Angeles Times Book Review editor David Ulin, performance poet and MTA diva Marisela Norte (Peeping Tom Tom Girl), historical fiction/noir-with-a-twist novelist Nina Revoyr (The Age of Dreaming), Terry “the Insurgent Muse” Wolverton, a veteran of the poetry scene (Embers), the politicized cyber-punk phenom of East L.A., Sesshu Foster (Atomik Aztex), Los Angeles Poetry Festival organizer and “unofficial Poet Laureate of Los Angeles” Suzanne Lummis, former Los Angeles Times staffer and elegant prose stylist Lynell George, “Witness L.A.” social justice blogger and author Celeste Fremon, novelist and UCLA professor David Wong Louie, Eastside performance writer Raquel Gutierrez.

LAy of the LAnd is sponsored by Creative Writing and Syntext, Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature & Writing, Graduate Program in English, Marymount Institute, Denise Scott Fund and the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts.

The event is free and open to the public.


12:00 - Opening Reception/Lunch (Marymount Institute)

1:30 - Panel I: “Visibility” (McIntosh Center)
Moderator: Alicia Partnoy, poet and LMU professor
Panelists: David Wong Louie (fiction)
Celeste Fremon (non-fiction, blogging)
Lynell George (non-fiction)
Terry Wolverton (poetry)

3:00 - Break/Tea (English Department Village)

4:00 - Panel II: “Invisibility” (McIntosh Center)
Moderator: Chuck Rosenthal, novelist and LMU professor
Panelists: Sesshu Foster (fiction, poetry)
Raquel Gutierrez (performance, theater)
Nina Revoyr (fiction)
Suzanne Lummis (poetry)

5:30 - Wine & Cheese Reception (Ahmanson Foyer)

6:00 - Featured Reading & Discussion (Ahmanson)
Moderator: David Ulin, editor, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Readers: Douglas Kearney (poetry)
Marisela Norte (poetry)
Carolyn See (fiction)

Contact: Rubén Martínez (213-804-4682; or Gail Wronsky (310-338-7668;

◙ As I approach the big 5-0 (April 8th, to be precise), AARP keeps sending me little membership packets just to rub it in. But I just learned from Richard Yañez (author of El Paso del Norte: Stories on the Border) that AARP has a bilingual version of its magazine called Segunda Juventud. The spring edition’s cover is graced by a smiling (and forever young) Sandra Cisneros with an article by Carlos J. Queirós in honor of the 25th anniversary of The House on Mango Street. Queirós says, in part:

Sandra Cisneros dips her feet into the cool water as sunlight shimmers on the San Antonio River. "This, to me, is the best part of San Antonio," she says, pointing out a monarch butterfly, circling hawks, and a white crane skimming over the water.

The quiet spot, just a short walk from her house, is where the Mexican American writer comes to clear her head or walk her many dogs. Born and raised in the barrios of Chicago, Cisneros, 54, is now at ease in San Antonio's historic and affluent King William neighborhood, her home for the past 22 years.

She greets friends as she strolls, giving an observer the impression that, wherever she is, Cisneros carries herself with confidence and grace, the same qualities that have helped her become an influential activist, teacher, and literary icon. She's celebrated for her compelling Chicana perspective on issues such as identity, gender, sexuality, bilingualism, and class struggles.

On this, the 25th anniversary of her acclaimed first novel, The House on Mango Street, Cisneros recalls a time during its writing when, living out of boxes and working as a high school teacher and counselor, she questioned the direction of her life. "It seemed that literature didn't save anyone and was flimsy compared to the struggles of my young students," she says of those who were pregnant, in abusive relationships, or facing even worse problems. "I wondered if I should have done something more practical, like teaching these young women how to control their fertility."

You may read the entire piece here. Included is a full Q & A with La Sandra.

◙ And now about one of my favorite places to grab coffee or maybe a scone or lunch during my work week in downtown L.A. It’s called Lost Souls Café which is located in the Old Bank District down the Harlem Place Alley, 124 W. 4th Street (the alley will look familiar to anyone who has watched CSI: New York or other television shows where it impersonates a Big Apple alley rather nicely). It’s a place where you could spot artists and poets sharing space with attorneys, judges and many other folk. The bookshelves groan with all sorts of good things to engage the mind and I admit that I've happily donated books and literary journals throughout the years. The walls are covered with innovative and exciting art (sometimes for sale) and the space has hosted wonderful musicians, singers and poets. Well, in these tough economic times, this soulful place is trying to survive. So, because the founders of the café will not give up, they are hosting a huge fundraiser fiesta on Sunday, March 15, noon to 10 p.m. Come celebrate, listen to groovy tunes, and keep Lost Souls Café alive! Visit here for details.

◙ That’s all for now. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!

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